I attended the funeral of my Auntie Perla yesterday. I drove the 850-mile round trip over two days. We left Thursday. I managed to return home by 2:00 am Saturday morning. We listen to Ender's Game during the drive.
The funeral is the first in our parents generation. It made me realize how fragile our elders have become. It was a disquieting thought.
Aunt Perla had been sick for years. They referred to her as the woman with nine lives. She survived seven years of dialysis while in constant pain. Death, when if finally came for her, offered relief from many years of suffering.
Aunt Perla was born in the Philippines in 1938. She came to America with her family as part of a wave of immigration in the 60s. Her husband, Uncle Tito (or Fred), brought his family over via military service. Like my wife's father, Fred served a full career in the Navy before retiring with his family to California.
Since teh Pono's lived in Vallejo, we seldom saw each other. Yet the family bond held true. I've known them for nearly 30 years. My wife has known them for even longer. The funeral brought us together from all over the world. We spent a day at the memorial service and funeral, and a few hours together at her home. If felt right. It felt like family.
Her funeral mass was attended by over 300 people. It lasted nearly two hours. I sat in the back like I normally do. I do not like to participate in the ritual of belief for obvious reasons, so I try to stay out of the way. I was moved by the beautiful delivery of Amazing Grace by Aunt Perla's 14-year-old granddaughter Jazmin. Her voice was sweet and pure, it nearly brought me to tears.
I spoke with her husband Fred for a few minutes on the drive from the reception to his home. He told me he was most proud of the work his wife had performed for the local Filipino community. Her tireless efforts were event in the 15,000 people who had attended an annual Filipino cultural event the week before. Her funeral had actually been delayed a week so as not to disrupt the event. It said a great deal about her - and her family.
R.I.P Perla Pono